City of London restarts legal action against protest camp
THE CITY of London yesterday vowed to press ahead with plans to evict protesters from its land, hours after US police tore down a connected campsite in New York.
Legal efforts to move the St Paul’s protesters are set to resume, without the explicit support of the church, after the camp rejected an offer to leave in the New Year.
The latest twist in the long-running saga came as US riot police shut down the Zuccotti Park camp – the birthplace of the disjointed “occupy” movement – in a midnight raid.
Nearly 150 activists, including around a dozen who had chained themselves to each other and trees, were hauled away by police carrying shields and batons.
In its fresh bid to remove protesters from City-owned land outside St Paul’s, the City of London Corporation will demand Occupy LSX removes tents and equipment within 24 hours. It says it will then proceed with high court action.
The move could be complicated by centuries-old uncertainty over the dividing lines between City and church land in the Square Mile, as well as potential challenges under the Human Rights Act.
Senior clerics at St Paul’s have been split over how to respond to protesters, resulting in three resignations, and yesterday the cathedral confirmed it will not join the legal action.
Stuart Fraser, policy chairman of the Corporation, said he wants all the tents cleared from public highways around the cathedral and pledged to pursue talks alongside court action.
He said: “We are getting reports about vulnerable people, cases of late-night drinking and other worrying trends, so it’s time to act. It will take time but we are determined to see this through.”
The New York eviction, led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brookfield Office Properties, the park owners, followed growing concerns over health and safety. They said areas of the park smelled of human waste and there were reports of sexual assaults, thefts and drug dealing.
Campaigners vowed to set up camp in another New York park and hundreds of people were seen dragging their sleeping bags and tents to Foley Square.
In a separate raid on a camp in California, police used tear gas and stun grenades to clear the area, while sites in Oregon, Vermont, Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City have also been cleared in recent days.